Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть is Russia's only oblast (administrative subdivision) that is removed from the rest of Russia. It is an exclave situated between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
Historically, the region was Prussian (and later German) and the capital, today's Kaliningrad, was known as Königsberg. The region was the northern half of historic East Prussia. After becoming part of the Soviet Union at the end of WWII, it was briefly known as Kyonigsberg (Кёнигсберг), a transliteration of its original name, prior to being renamed Kaliningrad in 1946.
Many of its coastal towns on the Baltic Sea coast have beautiful sandy beaches. It is also the heart of the old Prussian kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia and has many ruins of old castles and forts dotting the landscape.
- Kaliningrad - the capital
- Pionerskiy - a beach resort and home to one of Vladimir Putin's many second homes
- Primorsk (Fischhausen)
- Sovetsk (Tilsit)
- Svetlogorsk (Rauschen) -- Soviet era seaside resort
The Kaliningrad Oblast is the northern part of historic East Prussia (German: Ostpreussen). The southern part is roughly the Warmia-Masuria region of Poland. Since 1945, it has been part of Russia. In 1525 the Duchy of Prussia was founded by the last High Master of the Teutonic Knights Albrecht of Brandenburg-Ansbach who became the first duke of Prussia. From 1618 in personal union with Brandenburg, the duchy was elevated to a kingdom in 1701.
Though the united Kingdom of Prussia (with the capital Berlin) was a member state of the Holy Roman Empire and later the German Confederation, Prussia proper was not a part of Germany (or any other state) but an independent country until in 1871 when the German national state was established under Prussian leadership. Prussia was thereby incorporated into Germany as its dominant and most powerful state.
After Germany's defeat in World War II, East Prussia's native German-speaking population was forcibly expelled and the area was divided among three countries. The northern part with the capital Königsberg became the area of Kaliningrad Oblast, while the southern part was incorporated into Poland. A third fraction, the district north of the river Memel (Memelland) with the main city Klaipeda (Memel), had previously been split from Prussia and incorporated into Lithuania after WWI, and this was done again after WWII. In the aftermath of WWII, all three areas were ethnically cleansed of the their native German speaking populations.
Because the German speaking inhabitants were forced out and all their property was confiscated, the population of Kaliningrad Oblast consists now mostly of Russian speaking people, but there are still a lot of traces of old German culture (for example, every city in the oblast has an authentic name in German) which, along with the presence of modern Russian culture, makes it an interesting destination for travelers.
Kaliningrad Oblast produces 90% of the world's amber.
The Russian language is spoken by more than 95% of Kaliningrad Oblast population. English is understood by many people. While German culture plays a long historical role in the region the language is spoken by few.
As Kaliningrad is an exclave of the Russian Federation, almost all visitors require a Russian visa to enter. If you plan to travel overland between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia, you will need at least a double-entry visa in order to exit and re-enter Russia. Travelling by air on domestic flights between Kaliningrad and Moscow or St. Petersburg can be done even with a single-entry visa. For more information about Russian visas, see the visa section on the Russia page.
Special Kaliningrad visa: If you are only visiting Kaliningrad Oblast (and not the rest of Russia), you may be able to obtain a special Kaliningrad visa, provided that you fulfill all of the following requirements:
- your stay in Kaliningrad is a maximum of 3 days
- you are a citizen of a Schengen member state, the UK, or Japan
- you enter and leave Russia at the border check points of Bagrationovsk, Mamonovo and/or Khrabrovo Airport
The visa costs €70 and it can not be issued for children (for them regular visa must be obtained from a Russian embassy). For more information on how to obtain the special Kaliningrad visa, visit the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs .
Khrabrovo Airport (IATA: KGD) is a small international airport, so you may need to fly into Lithuania (Vilnius), Poland (Gdansk or Szczytno) or Finland and take a bus or ferry to Kaliningrad. -Local KD-Avia flies to several European cities, this is the easiest way to get into Kaliningrad. You can take a LOT (Polish Airlines) flight through Warsaw, every day except Saturday. Aeroflot also has several daily flights from Moscow.
There are several border crossing points.
- From Poland: Mamonovo, Bagrationovsk and Gusev.
- From Lithuania: Sovyetsk and Morskoye (on the Curonian Spit).
The road system is extensive in the Kaliningrad region; however, they are not always well-maintained, and sometimes it is hard to get around because of absence of signage indicating directions/destinations (especially in the city). Driving rules are generally the same as in most European countries, but many do not follow the rules, especially during rush hour in the city. Beware of the traffic police because they like to stop foreigners and often expect bribes.
- Curonian lagoon
- Vistula lagoon